The Philadelphia Police Department instructed its offices to temporarily stop making arrests for certain nonviolent crimes until next month amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The decision to delay arrests for crimes, including drug offenses, theft and prostitution, was announced in a statement that was first reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Under the new guidelines, those who would normally be arrested would be only temporarily held as authorities confirm identification and complete necessary paperwork. They would be formally arrested at a later date.
The policy maintains that “if an officer believes that releasing an offender would pose a threat to public safety, the officer will notify a supervisor" who could then decide if the suspect should be held.
The department is seeking to prevent the spread of the coronavirus by implementing social distancing during roll call and suspending nonessential training, among other things.
“Our mission is to protect and promote the health and safety of our officers and the community we serve to the best of our ability, while continuing to discharge every aspect of our core duties,” Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said in a statement to The Hill.
The Fraternal Order of Police came out in support of the proposal, saying in a statement to Philadelphia media outlets that the efforts are meant to keep officers safe.
“The directive was released to keep officers safe during this public-health crisis," said John McNesby, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 president. “Meanwhile, violent offenders will be arrested and processed with the guidance of a police supervisor.”
The move comes as federal officials stress the seriousness of the outbreak, which has killed more than 100 people in the U.S.